Friday 10 January 2020

ReaditDaddy's YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 10th January 2020: "Third World War (Crisis)" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid (Rebellion Publishing)

This one's strictly for our YA / Grown Up Readers, sliding into our YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the Week slot with all the temerity and bombast of a well-loved song.

In fact that's the power of comics - that sometimes you re-read something you read as a miscreant youth and it takes you back to the very time, the very era you first read it in.

I read this as a relative youngster, perhaps not as young as the main protagonists (or should that be antagonists?) in "Third World War" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid. But young enough to entirely 'get' where this comic was coming from. Created by arguably one of the most important comic writers in Brit-com history and illustrated by a truly iconic comic artist, there was no way on paper that this could fail.

Hailed as a new flagship for intelligent comic readers, Crisis launched in 1988 and caught me on the hop as the sort of disgruntled wage-slave 20 year old unhappy with the way the world was going at the time (Reader: He didn't change, even into his 50s).

In fact that's the rub - the stuff depicted in this comic 30 years ago really hasn't changed much - and the story's streak of malevolent anger feels perhaps even more relevant now than it did back then, and as the young adults drafted into a multinational peace organisation soon find, the machinations of large corporations carving up the natural resources of poorer countries for their own gain hasn't seemingly altered one iota in the here and now of 2020.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Eve, a girl balancing her strong moral compass against the demands of the peace corps she's 'drafted' into, finding that at every turn her worst fears are realised, and the "third world" is being vastly exploited by the evil multinational known as Multifoods, responsible for pushing sugary junk on the world's consumers, and carving up vast tracts of South America for gain and profit while displacing / policing the indigenous people there.

The young characters in the story, Eve, Paul, Gary, Trish and Ivan, all felt believable in a way that hadn't been tackled in comics for me up to that point. These were folk who I could readily spot amongst friends and acquaintances at the time and characters that were drawn from the disaffected youth fed up to the back teeth with a decade of the Tory government at the time (yeah, about that "not much has changed but we live underwater" thing).

While I was mainlining music by The The, Depeche Mode, Warren Zevon etc, I was also reading this comic and (largely) ignoring "New Statesman" (the other launch story in Crisis - which felt like it was catering for the US market rather than us) in favour of Third World War.

Paul, Ivan, Eve, Gary and Trish - In the firing line for Multifoods Peace Volunteer Force

It's surprising how well this has held up, and it's also surprising just how pissed off I still am at the way it draws to a close, leaving things hanging in an almost painful way, though obviously you can draw your own conclusions as to how things would've spun out if Crisis hadn't folded after three all-too-short years, ruling out a return for this strip.

As it stands though it's still one heck of a timely piece of work, read now amongst a world now paying the piper for what was going on 30 years ago as the climate crisis bares its teeth and bites hard, wreaking havoc around the world, and poorer countries still find themselves exploited by huge multinationals like the fictional Multifoods, adopting far more nefarious practices than just sending a bunch of conscript kids into hot zones. Spellbinding, important and thoroughly absorbing stuff.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A mind-crushingly timely slice of chaos 30 years ahead of its time, ringing a 5-bell alarm about what multinationals were doing to the planet, the effects of which we're still feeling today.

"Third World War (Crisis)" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied in digital format for review).